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Amazon’s Alexa will soon be able to read you stories in a loved one’s voice – even if they’re dead

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Soon you could opt to have a deceased loved one tell you stories, play music or simply turn on the lights – all from your Alexa device.

Amazon says it wants to “make memories last” and is developing a system to let its assistant mimic any voice after hearing less than a minute of audio.

So your Alexa may soon be able to mimic your departed nan, long-lost friend or, presumably, someone off the TV.

The goal is to “make the memories last” after “so many of us have lost someone we love” during the pandemic, said Rohit Prasad, an Amazon senior vice president.

The news follows discussion of a Google chatbot, which an engineer claimed was sentient and could express thoughts and feelings.

At a conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, a video segment portrayed a child who asked, “Alexa, can grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?”

A moment later, Alexa affirmed the command and changed her voice.

She spoke soothingly, less robotically, ostensibly sounding like the individual’s grandmother in real life.

Read more: ‘I fell in love with my AI girlfriend – and it saved my marriage’

But Amazon’s work wades into an area of technology that has garnered scrutiny for potential benefits and abuses.

Microsoft Corp recently restricted which businesses could use its software to parrot voices.

The goal is to help people with speech impairments or other problems, but some worry it could also be used to propagate political deepfakes.

Mr Prasad said Amazon’s aim for Alexa is “generalisable intelligence” or the ability to adapt to user environments and learn new concepts with little external input.

He said that goal is “not to be confused with the all-knowing, all-capable, uber artificial general intelligence”, or AGI, which Alphabet’s DeepMind unit and Elon Musk-co-founded OpenAI are seeking.

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